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DEMO: Intro to Pastillage


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Hi There

Wendy asked me to do a demo on pastillage - so I thought I might as well get started since it has been a couple of weeks. I plan to do this in several installments - so please be patient.

I would not really consider myself a great expert on pastillage --when Steve and I competed nationally he usually did the pastillage ahead of time and I concentrated on the pulled and blown sugar--but these days I do use it quite often and usually have some dough on hand in the freezer - it is a great go-to tool in pastry decor as long as you have a day or two for it to dry. Anyway, as a way to give a little back to the forum I'll share some of my experiences with pastillage over the next few days and talk about what pastillage is, how to design and prepare for a pastillage piece, how to make, use and assemble with pastillage, and then pack in order to move pastillage from place to place. There's real skill in deciding what you can do ahead, what has to be done on-site, and how to get it there safely.

I welcome questions and will have some pastillage handy, so if you have any burning questions about pastillage - please ask.

So, let's get started - shall we?

What is pastillage?

I thought I would start out by explaining exactly what pastillage is – and after checking around on the web – it appears that there is more diversity in what people think of as pastillage than I had realized. Here are a couple of definitions of pastillage that I found on the web:

“A paste mixture used for making molded decorations. Works especially well on flowers and leaves used to decorate wedding cakes.”

(I believe that this is actually referring to what I think of as gumpaste – which is more elastic, used in very very thin sheets, and makes excellent flowers)

From Baking 911: “Pastillage is rolled Fondant without any of the softening ingredients (glycerin corn starch or shortening). It is used mainly for decorative ribbons, three dimensional shapes and appliqués because it dries bone-dry and crusts more quickly than Fondant.”

From chefsimon (original in french – my translation here): “It is a paste for decorations composed primarily of confectionary sugar. There are many recipes depending on the smoothness desired and these are closely guarded secrets! Of course there exists for less exacting among us simple receipes but which prohibit a real work of smoothness or precision.”

I tend to agree with chefsimon, all except for the closely guarded secrets bit. Pastillage can be made different ways and of course can be used for pretty much anything you can think of, but generally it is sort of a decorative and structural pastry workhorse. Because it is stable, dries hard, is relatively strong and durable it generally provides bases, supports, ‘skeletons’ of decorative efforts upon which more delicate items are displayed. Pastillage is often used in conjunction with gumpaste and other sugar work like pulled and blown sugar. It has been used to build petits fours stands, cake stands, containers, long lasting cake toppers, etc--it's also been used to build churches, replicas of airplanes, it can even be sanded, carved and sculpted. While it is often left perfectly white, it can also be colored or painted.

Pastillage, while made 100% of edible ingredients, is what might be termed "technically edible." First of all – pastillage is hard and crisp – essentially like Necco wafers. Depending on the recipe used it could be unpleasant to eat. For instance all the recipes I use involve vinegar. Personally, I have never been tempted to eat any pastillage. I feel that while it might amuse children it's not something you would want to include on your menu for any purposes other than decorative.

Fondant, gum paste, sugar paste, and pastillage are all related but have critical differences. Fondant (and there are several kinds) remains soft for quite a while and makes a great cake covering – you can use it to make decorations but they lack the finesse and delicacy of décor created from gumpaste or pastillage. Fondant will harden up given time, but essentially remains soft.

Gumpaste recipes also vary extensively but typically involve gum tragacanth. The dough is very elastic and soft – more so than pastillage. Gumpaste can be rolled out thinner than pastillage, as thin as parchment, and it makes lovely flowers and petals. It can be worked longer than pastillage--meaning it is a little more forgiving, you can take longer to do what you want to do with gumpaste before it crusts than you can with pastillage. With pastillage, you have to work very quickly, make your cuts and shape it as quickly as possible. Both will hold up fairly well in humidity, but gumpaste will take on moisture more readily from the environment and other sources (such as buttercream). It is never as sturdy as pastillage.

Check this site to see pictures and information on some very cool historic pastillage creations--and realize pastillage has been used as a decorative medium for hundreds of years. Note the intricate molds. This makes one think about the close association of various artisans in the households of the aristocracy and how the changing social and economic conditions of the world have influenced pastry.


On this site, you can see a really nice pastillage Taj Majal:


Uses for pastillage

How you use pastillage depends on what you do. For a wedding cake artist, we've already mentioned that pastillage would be used for cake toppers, décor, possibly a cake stand. For a pastry chef in a hotel or restaurant, pastillage might provide the structure for a centerpiece for a buffet table or the stands for petits fours or other mini-dessert items. Unlike chocolate, which could melt, and sugar, which could absorb humidity, pastillage is relatively indestructible. (Pastry chefs often save pastillage for a long time and recycle pieces again and again...)

Pastillage remains somewhat obscure, if not completely foreign, in daily life in America, but you can still see it in competition work. Here are a couple items I have made with pastillage over time - some also employ gumpaste. Multi-media sugar art is a good thing. It gives you variety and depth that is hard to achieve in a single sugar medium.

This is some very early work of mine from a competition in NYC. It is an example of pastillage as a petits fours stand--the petits fours were the "requirement"--I hoped making all the stands edible would help make a better impression on the judges, and it did:


Here is even older work, my very first pastillage & sugar showpiece. A funky violin concept which admittedly, in retrospect, could have been improved upon with better planning - but I did it under pressure (it was one of 5 different showpieces I had to assemble and display that day at the same time) and considering the way I was shaking when I put it together I feel fortunate that it didn't end up a pile of rubble. This is an example of larger pieces that are curved in two dimensions--drying and assembling curved pieces is much more difficult than flat. In case it is not obvious - it is a sort of deconstructed violin with blown sugar birds (who are presumably enjoying the melodious tunes). The challenge in this was my interest in having pieces pierce through one another and undulate. My mock up in cardboard worked out great - but it is really important to keep inmind that dry pastillage has no flexibility whatsoever.


Here is an example of a quick ad-hoc pastillage construction used as cake decor--note the tree trunks are rolled while the "snowflake" foliage were stamped out with a cutter:


Another cake decor implementation, this time a bridal shower cake for my sister. Here the pastillage is painted using petal dusts with water. Originally I had a completely different plan - but due to some problems on the road from DC to Boston that resulted in breakage I had to improvise. I was pretty happy with the result:


Here is another, more traditional, cake decoration piece--for a 50th birthday cake for a Harvard grad--where I used pastillage to provide stability and combined it with gumpaste pieces that were lighter and more delicate:


And here is a fun Baby shower cake - (the mother to be provided Cowboy Cody pictures of the zillion items that would be employed in the baby's room - I tried to follow suit.) The wagon itself is pastillage but the wagon top is gumpaste. Otherwise all the other decor--campfire, cactus, stones, etc--is pastillage:


Next installment: Design and preparation

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First of all, your pieces are awesome and amazing!

Yay!!! I'm delighted to be reading this--what a treasure! If you really go looking you can compile the wildest recipes and definitions of almost all the sugar dough substances, y'know??? And they will sweetly conflict with the other recipes and definitions, even amongst the experts. Pastillage has frankly remained a mystery to me until now.

I have my elbows planted on the desk top & my chin in my hands waiting patiently for your next instalment. Yes!

We are getting some recipes/formulas aren't we????

Thank You, Chefette!!!

Not to mention, I love Necco wafers!!!!!!!!! :laugh:

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What an incredible start!!!!!!!!!!

I hope everyone enjoys this special demo.............and I do sincerely hope everyone will appreciate all the hard work Chefette has put into this. I think it's safe to say Thank-You from all of us! I/We anxiously await more..........

If anyone would like to make a demo thread, please contact me thru our pm system. We are always excited and happy to be able to feature our talented members.

I had no idea chefs/people were doing such detailed pastillage so long ago. Makes me think about some of the molds I have in my collection. Can you use any type of material as a mold? Can I use plastic candy molds to form items?

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Thanks for the nice compliments - I feel all 'aw shucks'

Yes K8memphis- I will be providing some recipes that I use and a few that I found doing research.

Yes Wendy - you can use those plastic candy molds - or those detailed cookie or chocolate molds that they sell, bowls, vases, lots of stuff. That is one of the things I will be dealing with in the next installment--but that's how I made those cactus shapes on the above cake: pastillage pressed into a cheap plastic mold, then turned out, dried, sanded and painted. Nice visual payoff, limited investment of time, perfect for a cake on a budget where you're not trying to pull out all the stops.

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Thank you so much! I didn't understand the difference between pastillage and gumpaste, so I really appreciate you taking the time to explain.

Your examples are incredible! Beautiful too! I love that wagon :wub:

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Wow. I had no idea either that pastillage was has been used for so long - those sculptures were amazing! Your work, too, chefette, is outstanding. Those blown sugar birds take my breath away.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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OH, Chefette, I just can't stand the suspense........ hurry back with more! :wub:

I have always been amazed at what can be accomplished with pastillage. Thank you so much for doing this demo and I can't wait to see more.

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Thanks for all the compliments - I really appreciate them. But I hope that this is helpful to you as well - and don't forget - ask questions.

Here is installment number two:

Deciding on a design

Before you get started with your pastillage, it is important to decide what you will do – make a plan, a design, even an architecture to figure out how to create your vision, what pieces need to be, how they need to be cut, shaped, dried, how it will stand up, balance, support…

If you are doing a design for a client – then you usually have that guidance and just have to make the decisions about how you will execute it – make it a reality. Interpretive or realistic? Sturdy or airy? All sorts of decisions.

This winter I was invited to contribute a sugar showpiece to an exhibit at the San Diego Airport – I immediately leapt to visions of airplanes – but then aviation is sort of a family history thing and I had been toying with an idea for a while and this was a chance to make it a reality. Here is a photo of the type of biplane that I wanted to do.


Here is how I made it a reality:

I drew out the basic plane. In this case I had some size restrictions that I had to observe. I needed the plane to be fairly small since I was going to be sharing a 24” square case with two other pieces. But I wanted the plane to be large enough that I could have some fun with the details and it would show up. So I started with the wingspan and worked from there. Normally – I would probably need a lot more detailed input to a design – but I pretty much grew up with several of these planes and used to sketch them all the time so I have the design internalized.

Finding or creating the facilitators to execute your design

Once you have your design and templates and everything is sized out you might want to create a test piece in cardboard to get a sense of how it will actually go together. This will also prove your logic if you are doing something 3D that is tricky and involved.

Manila filing folders are perfect for templates and mock ups.


I cut my pieces and crated a mock up in manila folder paper, then took it all apart and made the cutting templates.



Since I needed the shaped cockpit I also created a shaping form to make it curved. I cut it to the exact size of the cockpit template so that I would not mistake its exact location and get pieces that would not fit together.

I also knew that I would need three or four and that I had a very short time frame to do my work – plus high humidity in So. Cal at that time meant slow drying. So I made 4 shaping template forms.


If you are not doing something as specific as that – more form and motion you can use objects around the kitchen or house to shape your pastillage – if you don’t want to keep it all flat.

Achieving the shapes and forms you want can be tricky. You can employ many items to assist you:

Plastic molds

Cardboard forms

Cups, bottles, bowls

Modeling clay, plaster…


Just make sure that it will not adhere to the pastillage or release color or unwanted texture. And dust with cornstarch before laying your pastillage on anything.

You often have to make your own forms. In creating a form you should be very patient and precise. A good way to create a larger form that will be used to shape a large piece of pastillage or to shape many smaller pieces in the same way is to build a form using foam core and poster paper. You can use corrugated cardboard – but foam core really holds up well and is easier to work with all around.

Get white posterboard and I usually keep the shiny side up – the pastillage will rest on that. You also need an Xacto knife – and it’s a good idea to work with a nice new blade. I don’t have anything in mind – so I am just creating a generic form to show how one would go about it. I cut a piece of foam core as the base and then cut pieces (all the same size) that will be the ‘ribs’.



You can see that I drew guidelines so that the ribs would line up. I also attached each rib with a toothpick then taped the joints.



I attached the poster board to the ribs at one side using scotch tape so that I know it will be even on the side and left it as a flap. Then I attached strips of heavy duty double sided tape along the top of each rib. You could do all this with your trusty glue gun too – but then taking it all apart later to store is more difficult. Then I just flipped over the poster board and attached it to the ribs and taped down the other side. Voila – a form.


You can see on this form that I would have problems if I required something really exact and if I was planning to use most of the area right out to the edges. More ribs, use of a side piece, or extending the posterboard down lower would all address this. But you always need to create or find the template or form that is appropriate to what you are doing. If your piece needs to be perfectly exact then you need to make your form perfectly exact. Also - I would probably build a guide or create some sort of border so that each piece I formed on this would be as close as possible to the exact same specs in its curvature.

This still only curves your pasillage in one dimension. Really interesting, challenging pieces curve out of the second plane into a third plane (dimension - not airplane) I am starting to feel like Walt Disney with all this if you can dream it you can do it stuff - but...the reality is most of the pastillage you will do will not be this complicated--you'll cut and dry flat pieces or very simply curved pieces.

Tomorrow I will make pastillage.

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Seriously...........we can dream of making things but actually seeing and learning how you do it, is very educational. Watching and learning from someone with experience is priceless.

I personally don't have any questions at this moment because I'm absorbing what your teaching. I'm already feeling more confident that I can use this media and dreaming about what to make in my job using this.

And I'm thinking all this applies to making showpieces out of other materials too........

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In the 5th picture, the white pieces laying inside the bi-plane fuselage shaping forms are made of pastillage or is that the poster board??

In the 8th, 9th & 10th pictures, the royal blue color stuff is blue foamcore, right??

In the same set of pictures, the white board that is being used--the cut out pieces that are secured with toothpicks and tape look thick like foamcore. So the blue and the white there is foamcore right???

How long did it take to make the bi-plane model & shaping forms--even though you had a heads up because it was something very familiar.

Great stuff!

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Both the royal blue and the white pieces are foam core. It was blue on one side and white on the other and I thought that the color contrast would make it easier to see online. Sorry for the confusion.

In the picture with the manila folder forms - the white substance is pastillage. To make this go faster I am combining some step by step pictures I took in January with new ones. I actually thought that the forms I created for my Bi-plane fuselage was a brilliant solution. I was so happy with how it worked out that I think that for smaller pieces it is completely the way to go. I will take some pictures and post them this afternoon so you can see how that worked.

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Initially - I spent alot of time trying to find a plastic Bi-plane model that I could use to just lay the pastillage in or on. Turned out that they just don't have a lot of plastic bi-plane models and that they are either really small or way too big. They also connect right up the spine of the plane so that there would be a big seam right up the middle that would be a pain to conceal. Lastly - I discovered that airplane model makers seem to be compulsive about recreating every rivet and cannot seem to keep those puppies in scale so the plane models are sort of bumpy and not smooth. Those factors completely nixed the easy option that I had considered using. Oh well. Hence back to the drawing board.

Making the model, templates, and forms probably took me a solid 4 hours. I could say I just threw it together in 15 minutes but I get so frustrated when people toss out things like that, that I know for a fact take concentration and time, then when it takes you all day you feel like you must be a lightweight. So, for a fairly complex form like the plane that I had to test out I would set aside some time when you have peace and quiet and can think. Plus you make a mess of manila bits and scraps of tape and staples. But that work really pays dividends in the end.

At the first US Pastry Team Championships in Beaver Creek, we all flew in a week ahead of time, and I remember Ewald Notter spending two days early in the week just building forms and rolling out pastillage. He of course had brought fully-dried and finished pastillage pieces, but he had the time, so he just kept making more. You can never have enough back up. (He won that year.) Fortunately all of my husband's pastillage (eG's own Steve Klc) and backups arrived safely--including his 3 foot long curvy pieces--so we didn't have to make more.

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This is how I made the former for my bi-plane fuselage:


As you can see - I created a heavier card that was longer and wider than the fuselage.

I took rectangles of mailla folder and fitted them over the cardboard fuselage at six points that I marked.

I folded up the base of each of these ribs so they could stand on their own.

I cut slots in the base card that the ribs could just fit through then taped the flaps on the bottom

Afterwards - I curled a fuselage shaped piece to fit inside the ribs. It fit really snugly so I did not actually have to tape that. It worked out really well since it was very compact, I could pack it flat and put it together in California. Obviously it has suffered in the return trip and storage since I did not bother taking it apart to come home. Just flattened it and stuffed it in an envelope. Now I have disassembled all my taping so I could show you the components.

You can do things over an inverted shape but the down side is that the pastillage does not want to remain in contact with anything outside its flop scope - doesn't stick so just hangs there - so if you want sides that come in after the curve you have to figure out a way to accomplish that. A parchment sleeve that can be taped to the form is a good solution since this will hold your pastillage where you want it while it sets up.

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Making pastillage

This is the pastillage recipe that I like most right now. It is from Ewald Notter. I will make a second batch with Light corn syrup instead of glucose and powdered gelatin just to see if that makes any difference.

850g 10x

150g cornstarch

10g gelatin

30g glucose

15g white vinegar

for the second batch

850g 10X

150g cornstarch

2 envelopes powdered gelatin dissolved in 125 g cold water (too much – try 60g)

30g light corn syrup

15 g white vinegar

- Place the glucose (or corn syrup) and white vinegar in a small pan

- Bloom the gelatin in cold water. Start this while you are prepping your sugar and starch so it has plenty of time to soak up water – you want it well hydrated. (For the second recipe with powdered gelatin I used 125g water and I felt that was too much – so I would cut back to maybe 60-80g)

- Weigh and sift your powdered sugar and corn starch together so they are well combined

- Place the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and warm your wet ingredients with the bloomed gelatin and let that melt – but not get too hot


- Gradually pour the melted gelatin mix into the dry ingredients while stirring with the paddle on the slowest speed


- Let that stir until it all comes together then turn it out onto a very clean surface dusted with 10X and knead until smooth



The batch with the powdered gelatin is too soft and sticky to use today because there is too much water - but I think that overnight the starch and sugar will absorb the extra moisture and it will probably be fine. There does not seem to be any difference otherwise - so, we'll see how it behaves after 12 hours. The other pastillage can be used right away.


- If it seems too dry and crumbly moisten your hands and continue kneading – repeat until the consistency is smooth and cleans up the surface

The pastillage dough is something like bread dough but not as soft or sticky.

I typically cut it in half and wrap the halves seperately, then put them in a ziplock bag with a damp towel.



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You should soak the bowl and paddle as soon as you scrape out the pastillage dough so that the pastillage remnants don’t harden on them.

Some recipes really need to rest overnight to allow even absorbtion of the moisture, but others work quite well immediately.

If you don’t use all the pastillage – you may freeze it for future use. Upon thawing, the pastillage will be very stiff, sort of crumbly, but some kneading and warming (from your hands but 5 or 6 seconds in the microwave can aid you) will bring it back to a nice workable consistency.

Tomorrow I will demo techniques to roll, cut, and form the pastillage.

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I look at those constructions and think "I could never," hopefully you'll change my mind!

How many years have you been working with pastillage and baking? It looks like an art or construction background is helpful, have you studied either?

Thanks so much for including the time it takes you to do some of this. It is one thing to see the end product or even the sugar competitions, but to get an idea of what it really takes to develop the idea, construct the molds and then actually build the project is a fantastic view for the amature or beginner.

Thanks again for all your time in sharing this with us!

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Dear Chefette,

thanks so much for the inspiration. I am in the middle of a gradiose move from Paris, France to Moscow, Russia. Don't know how long it will take me to find a job - the news is quite discouraging, since only 10-15% of customers even order dessert in Moscow... Grrr! But times are changing slowly, and this is my chance to help the process along by introducing my countrymen to beautiful, tasty, light and innovative desserts.

But back to pastillage: My husband, in order to make me feel more at ease, promised to buy me a new KitchenAid ASAP. :) So if I am stuck at home with nothing to do, I will practice my pastillage skills, as blowing sugar is not nearly so practical in a home setting. Haven't done any really intricate pastillage work since finished school several years ago.

Thanks again, everyone. eGullet is a wonderful opportunity to continue learning from the best in the business and remember old tricks. These workshop series are amazing! Keep them coming! I am so happy to be able to keep in touch with so many fellow professionals, while I embark on my new adventure.

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There are really so few things in the entire world that should make you say "I could never"... And pastillage is so far far away from being something "that I could never".

Now, it does help to have an artistic bent or a mechanical aptitude. Good sources of inspiration are books on paper sculpture. Sure, pastillage is much different in character than paper - but paper engineering and sculpture can give you many ideas how to create something interesting and 3-D using flat elements. Admittedly most paper sculpture work is sort of 2-D in the sense that it is usually put together into a sort of picture, but look at things like pop-up books, doll furniture kits, fun lamps. Some things are harder than others - but you don't have to be all realistic - tha is the beauty here - you can do interpretive things or suggestive things.

You can work completely flat in cutouts and paint, you can build up many flat layers, you can add seperators to bring in extra elements of dimension. I don't know how to explain how to look at things and deconstruct them so you look at a car or a tree or a TV set and think, how could I make one in pastillage? How will I interpret this object?

Make it 3-D?, make it 2-D?

Make it realistic or stylized?

what size will be appropriate and convenient?

what can I use to form it?

will it be freestanding or supported?

Is it a foreground element or a supporting element?

Colored or white?

rustic or finessed?

If someone wanted a kitchen in pastillage on their cake - what approach would you take? what pops into your head right away? I see a Jetsons kitchen with pastel appliances - 3D free standing, pieces would pretty much be curvey and narrower at the bottom, wider at the top. I think that pieces that are sort of rounded would be great - but maybe it is easier to make them more angular so I don't have to deal with connecting curves. Bring some fun to it - you have royal icing and gumpaste available to you to do smaller, more complex, delicate elements that lift the piece to a more exciting level.

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Wow - sounds like a big move. I hope it goes well.

Doing pulled and blown sugar at home is actually great! You hardly need any equipment at all for one thing - you can get by with a microwave and a sugar lamp - or just a sugar lamp. You don't need a sugar box - in a pinch you can set up barriers to keep your work environment warm using cardboard folders.

I like doing sugar at home because I can have dedicated space, its calm and quiet and I don't have to worry about anyone else knocking things around.

You do need your basic sugar equipment: Heat lamp, silpats, I like working with a cool blower, alcohol lamp, sugar pump, silicone leaf presses. I usually have plastic boxes with containers of dessicant to put completed items in so they stay nice. I also like the flexipan large rounds- maybe 6-7" and about 1/2-3/4 inches deep that I keep my sugar in while working. This also makes it easy to shuttle it to the microwave for a quick zap if it gets a bit too cold.

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What is 10x? I take it it's some sort of flour -- what is particular about it? Would you ever use a regular AP flour?

I'm basically from the "I could never" school -- but I'm gonna. (Well I'm gonna try!)

Thanks. This is an amazing thread to read.

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Cakewalk - I just did a reply but then it disappeared so here goes again

Don't dig out the flour bin.

10X is Confectionary Sugar, Powdered sugar, or Icing Sugar

the 10X refers to the fineness

Soory about the shorthand.

Edited by chefette (log)
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